Monthly Archives: July 2016

Home Gym Design

At different times of the year- and at different stages in life- our physical fitness rises up on the priority list. And in this we are often met with an overwhelming amount of information about what kind of exercise is best, which foods should be avoided, and just how to go about shedding those excess pounds. While it can be difficult to filter through the advice there are some things that can make this process a little easier to navigate. Perhaps the easiest solution of all is to create a home gym that can adapt to your needs as they change.

home gym

Big windows help this home gym feel open and expansive.

A home gym is often quite different from commercial workout spaces. Rather than a huge room lined with mirrors, rows of cardio equipment and weight machines, and a huge assemblage of kettle balls and free weights, a home gym can be a sleeker, simpler space. In addition to the fact that you won’t need all that equipment for just a few people, you are also enabled to craft your space in a way that cultivates a calm determination.

A small room will suffice for your home gym, but I recommend it be a room you enjoy spending time in. Choose a space with big windows and a view if you can, but free of distractions. Natural light is a big bonus and helps with both mood improvement and motivation. If natural light isn’t an option in your space, choose a lighting scheme that is gentle but provides ample illumination for your workouts.

Depending on what kinds of physical activities you’re planning on doing, flooring can be an important component of your home gym.  For many folks the home gym is a simple situation, and flooring materials can be of your choosing. Hard wood or wood alternatives create a warm, inviting feeling but can be in danger of damage if weights are dropped. Choose a hardy material that can stand up to the activity that will take place.

Work with your architectural team to customize that bonus room or flex space into your home gym.  Rather than just moving equipment into an empty space, you can cultivate a deliberate experience when working with a professional designer. Built-ins, light sources, and structural adjustments can be added to your existing house plan, ensuring that your dream home comes together exactly as you envision it.

Search our large selection of house-plans-with-home-gyms

Nine Breath-Taking Ideas for a Summer Fireplace

For most folks, the summer months are too hot to justify using the fireplace, and for others these traditional built ins are not functional during any time of the year. Either way, a fireplace is designed to draw your eye and creates a central focal point in the room. Even when not in use, resist the temptation to ignore your fireplace in warmer months. These nine suggestions will get you ready for a summer fireplace that stands out in a crowd.

  1. Plants

    summer fireplace

    Plants add a pop of color and vibrancy to a space that can be dark and cool.

During the summer months, go big and green with vibrant indoor plants like ferns, ZZs, and ivy; or build a succulent garden with jade plants, cacti, and hens and chicks. Choose funky pots and layer them in the firebox where they will stay cool during the hot months while bringing a pop of bright summer color to your great room.

 

 

summer fireplace

The fireplace can showcase items of special importance.

2. Artwork Display

For large sculptures or statues, use the natural eye-catching design of the fireplace for displaying these large pieces. Opt for a simple design so as not to detract from the artwork itself and the space transforms into a stunning shadowbox.

 

  1. Light up the logs!

    summer fireplace

    Use string lights to illuminate wood logs.

Stack real firewood in the firebox and use either tea light candles or thin strings of white lights to illuminate the space. For candles, use a drill to create “holders” in the wood for the tea lights and make certain that the logs are stacked in a completely stable fashion to minimize any risk of tipping while the candles are lit. Alternatively, wind wire-strand lights around the logs for a fairy-light look on a nearly invisible strand.

  1. Photo Display

Organize framed photographs of various sizes and heights in the fireplace to draw attention to the things that matter most to your family. Use mix-match frames and color photos of people and places for a funky, casual look, or use matching frames with black-and-white images for a classy, minimalist feel.

  1. Occasional Tables

If you have a small side table or console table not is use this could be the perfect place for it this summer! Setting an occasional table in front of the fireplace bring the space forward and provides a display space for lovely items or an additional resting spot for drinks and plates during a summertime gathering.

6. Wood Storage

summer fireplace

Artistically stacked wood makes a lovely display and doubles as wood storage.

Consider stacking firewood in the fireplace over the summer in a decorative way, using up the entire space for a fitted wooden panel. The play of stone or brick with natural wood is both interesting and functional. For a funky feel, paint the ends of some or all of the wood logs in bright colors to accent other statement pieces in the room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Shelves

    summer fireplace

    Book shelves in the fireplace make for a compelling conversation piece.

Simple shelves installed into the fireplace can be either temporary for a summer display or permanent for a non-functional fireplace. Fill the shelves with books for an unusual library or display books of special import for a bookshelf that is both functional and aesthetically compelling.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Cover it up!

If you’re not inclined to use the firebox for a display case this summer, or just didn’t get around to cleaning it out, you can always cover it up with a solid screen. Find something made with natural materials such as wicker or woven grass for a summertime feel.

  1. Mirrors

    summer fireplace

    Mirrors expand the space and maximize light.

Mirrors might be the single best way to help a small space feel larger. Like with the shelf suggestion above, you can either go permanent or temporary with this idea. A mirror the same size as the fireplace can be mounted against the back wall to visually expand the floor space and reflect the room back to the viewer. Alternatively, mirrors in frames can be layered in the firebox to reflect light at different angles and brighten the space.

 

Click here to see all of our favorites ideas on Pinterest.

Build a Clever Cat Yard

It’s not just dogs that want time outdoors when the weather warms up: cats also enjoy fresh air and a chance to catch some rays. But as most feline fanciers know, cats who roam unsupervised outside often have a much shorter life expectancy than their indoor counterparts, due to the many dangers they face. Cats can also be a neighborhood nuisance, digging in flower beds and hunting small bird populations that some homeowners cultivate. The solution? An enclosed outside space designed for your cat’s entertainment and safety. The “catio” as some are calling it, is growing in popularity and popping up everywhere from big yards to apartment windows. Here are a few things to consider when building your own cat yard:

Full Enclosure

Cat yard

Full enclosures are necessary to ensure your cat’s safety.

Remember that cats are expert climbers as well as boundary-pushers. They will, by nature, try to find a way to get beyond the space you have designed for them, if only for the sake of exploration. Use materials that are difficult for cats to maneuver through, like chicken wire or fine wire mesh. Don’t be tempted to skimp on the structure of the enclosed cat yard; secure the ends and edges well to keep your kitty safe.

 

 

cat yard

Cats love to climb up high to take in the view.

Climbing Structures

Cats love to view the world from on high and survey their surroundings. By creating vertical spaces in your cat yard for them to climb on and hang out in, you provide valuable stimulus for your felines. Floating shelf-type steps up a vertical wall work well for this, so long as they are mounted securely enough to hold your cat’s weight.

 

 

cat yard

Tunnels and above ground walkways are feline favorites

Tunnels

Open-air tunnels made of screen material give cats a place to stretch their legs and “chase” after birds or squirrels without endangering them. If you have lots of space in your cat yard to work with, consider an above ground “cat run” leading from one enclosed space to another.

Window Terrace

Even if you don’t have a lot of yard space to work with- or no yard at all- you can still design a clever cat yard hangout spot. Building off of a window, anchor an enclosed structure to the building outside to provide a sunny, fresh-air escape and a good lookout spot from which your cat can monitor the activities of the neighborhood.

Pre-fab Cat Enclosures

If you don’t have the time or desire to design a cat yard, there are many premade options to choose from. These have the added benefit of being a temporary enclosure, good for families that could be moving in the future, or are preparing for a backyard renovation. Check out the PAWS website suggestions for these products here.

Craftsman Homes Continue to Captivate

For all its many years in circulation, Craftsman house plans are still capturing the American imagination. The progeny of two distinct parents, the craftsman can be seen as the quintessentially adaptable American child.

Paternal influence comes from Englishman William Morris’ rebellion against the Industrial Revolution. He perceived a profound discounting of the individual worker and a subsequent dehumanization of labor. In response, artisans gained prominence as a way to showcase the quality of individual craftsmanship. The mother of this style is the every-woman of the day, caught in the shifting tides of changing social structures and familial obligations. The woman of the house no longer typically had live-in servants and was mostly responsible for the housework along with the raising of the children.  Out of this grew the need for a functional aesthetic, simple yet beautiful; a home for the modern family.

Through this lens, we can trace the genealogy of the American family structure. And while the Arts and Crafts Movement increased in popularity, the Craftsman home gained prominence as the architectural embodiment of these shifting social elements.

The typical craftsman home can easily be identified by a few consistent features. Externally, we see steep hipped roofs and visible gables which are often used to protect front porches under deep eaves. Exposed rafters or supporting brackets on the exterior showcase the workmanship that is so important to this style, while also adding an aesthetic flair. Double-hung windows are also common features, historically boasting a four-over-one or six-over-one design for decorative enhancement. But perhaps the most easily recognizable exterior element is the visible mixed materials both local and natural to the area. Stone, handcrafted wood works, and glass are major players in this style of home, paying homage to the handcrafted workmanship out of which this style originally gained footing in the American imagination.

Interiors also reflected changes to the American family unit. Perhaps the most significant element to this design is the kitchen. As housekeeping needs changed, the modern family needed a way to interact in those spaces traditionally reserved for servants.  In response, the kitchen was integrated into the main floor plan and provided open sight lines to other common areas of the home, including the back yard. As an amendment to the open kitchen, the breakfast nook was introduced as a place for the family to gather around meal times. Space that would historically have been used as a butler’s pantry were replaced with built-in cabinetry more functional for the modern family. This was also a space in which to showcase handcrafted wood and glass work so indicative of the Arts and Crafts style.

Craftsman homes declined in popularity in the 1920’s or so, but came to the forefront again some 60 years later when many large cities in the United States experienced housing booms. In particular, California and Washington State saw large increases in population and growing local economies; the demand for homes for single family units was high. Even now, sales for Craftsman house plans are up from previous years.

Partly because of the simplicity and functionality inherent to the design of a Craftsman house plan, we are seeing another push for these classic designs for modern families. Perhaps it is a quieter cousin to the rebellion from which we first gained footing, but in this world of mass-produced everything and internet commerce, a return to the importance of hand-crafted features is growing in prominence.  Moving away from some of the earlier interior elements like low ceilings, this archetypal design offers much room for adjustment. This is a plan inherently designed for adaptation. The foundational clean lines and connected spaces are a short step away from becoming the open floor plans so high in demand right now. With the addition of higher ceilings and larger windows, the cozy feeling of the traditional design easily transforms into the bright, open, adaptable space of the Contemporary Craftsman.

Contemporary craftsman

An contemporary Craftsman house plan for the modern family.

In either the classic or the contemporary incarnation, this design has been integral to the American concept of home for over 100 years. And, in true American fashion, its easily adaptable structure allows plenty of room for reinvention and creativity, and continues to showcase all that is best about individual workmanship.

The Ultimate Dog Yard

If your family include those of the four-legged variety then a well-planned out dog yard is a must-have for the long summer days. Many of our furry friends will opt to be outside when it’s hot and humid. And as every dog owner knows, a bored dog is a troublemaker. When planning out your dog yard, check out these features for a contented canine!

Running Water

dog yard water fountain

A water fountain in your dog yard keeps your dogs well hydrated in hot summer months.

A physical necessity for dogs who spend the days or nights outside during the hot months, so why not make it a deliberate feature? Ranging from simple to complex, a drinking fountain for your pooch adds ambient sound to your dog yard while keeping your beloved pets hydrated.

 

 

 

Fences

Dog Yard fence

A good fence around your dog yard will keep everyone safe.

All dogs love to run and are driven by their noses. Proper fencing is a must to keep your dogs safe from environmental hazards such as vehicles, other dogs, and toxins in the area. It’s not enough to create a cool play space for them; good boundaries in a dog yard make them feel safe and allow their playful natures to come through.

Shade and Shelter

Everyone needs to be able to get away from the direct heat of the sun. Either with landscaping or with structures, provide plenty of cool spaces in your dog yard to rest and cool off in the high heat of the day.

dog yard shade

Provide shade in your dog yard for your pooch can rest from the heat of the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conscious Landscaping

Make sure that your landscaping choices in the dog’s play area are safe to be around. Check out the ASPCA’s list of harmful and toxic plants here to make sure there aren’t any plants that could be dangerous to a curious pup. Also remember that pesticides and herbicides are toxic to animals. Consider using natural or organic pest control methods in areas where your dog will be spending a lot of his time.

Paths

dog yard path

Build paths into your dog yard for your pup to scout and sniff around in.

Dogs love to scout and sniff out their landscape. By creating paths through your dog yard you provide lots of prowling ground for them to investigate. Keeping their nose and mind active is one of the best ways to engage their curiosity– and it will tire out your dog for a well-behaved evening.

 

 

 

 

Creating a play space for your dog needn’t take up valuable real estate in your back yard. Many of the features that will keep your pups happy and healthy have benefits for their humans as well. With a little creative planning, your backyard dog yard can be the ultimate hang out spot for the entire family.

Home Owner Must-Haves for July 4th

There is something innately American about a July 4th backyard gathering. Whether hosted at one home, or shared between neighbors for a block party atmosphere, the outside party to celebrate our country’s independence is a widespread tradition for many families. As we get closer to this year’s celebratory weekend, here are a few must-have’s to make your gathering the best yet.

Curb Appeal

July 4th

July 4th curb appeal welcomes friends to the party.

Traditional décor like bunting, pinwheels, barn stars, and red, white, and blue lights make for a classical welcoming porch that invites neighbors and friends into your July 4th party space. Hanging metal lanterns are very popular this year. Allow the front door to be the focal point, especially if you’ve already chosen a bold color for this feature, and build your decorations out from there. Adding additional splashes of color with potted arrangements on either side of the door or on the far sides of wide front steps brings a celebratory atmosphere all the way to the street and expands the gathering space into the yard.

 

Grilling patio

Grilling patios make for effortless entertaining.

Grilling Patio

The best outdoor parties provide multiple spaces for people to gather and move about with ease, and there is no better way to facilitate the natural flow of party goers than having a grilling porch. This is one of the most commonly sought after features of house plans today. Often covered, a grilling porch provides a safe space for a BBQ and a contingency plan in case of rain on your July 4th party day. A designated space for cooking and eating makes hosting an effortless endeavor, and with built in prep space you’ll spend less time running in and out of the house and more time enjoying the time your guests.

July 4th firework safety

July 4th firework safety

Safety Plan

Before the July 4th afternoon gets into full swing, make sure you have planned for the safety of your family and guests before anything might occur. If you live in an area where fireworks are permitted, check with your local fire department for recommended safety protocols. Teach small children at your party about firework safety and let your guests know where to find fire extinguishers or garden hoses. Also remember that explosive sounds can frighten animals into running away, so make sure to keep a close eye on your four legged family members and put them in a quiet spot in the house if they are a flight risk during fireworks shows.